Director: Brett Rapkin
Starring: Josh Duhamel, W. Earl Brown, Ernie Hudson
Coming out in the middle of and at the same time as a ton of other baseball movies, I expected Spaceman to fall smack dab in the center between the good and the bad, to finish as a passable sports biography performed by mediocre talents. Turns out I gave Spaceman too much credit. Director Brett Rapkin is a documentarian who loves baseball; fine, but that doesn’t give you the green light to make your own movie about the sport you enjoy, to think that you can manage an entire feature project when so many other professional filmmakers have tried and failed. Applaud Rapkin’s tenacity if you will, but he had no business making this movie, the result of which was barely a movie at all, but rather a sad attempt at something he wasn’t capable of and an embarrassing legacy to begin.
Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee, one of the biggest personalities to ever pitch a game of baseball, and a self-destructive force that no one could contain. Lee was a tremendous left handed hurler, setting records with the Boston Red Sox, going to an All-Star game, and eventually entering into Boston’s Hall of Fame. But it was his antics both on and off the field that gained Bill the most notoriety, and would eventually blackball him out of the major league. A renowned defender of marijuana use and a heavy drinker, Lee was a counterculturist in a game that had no room for bending the rules or flaunting independence in the face of such power and money. Cut from the Red Sox, Lee’s second major league home would be with the Montreal Expos, but that gig wouldn’t last long either.
After leaving before a start in order to go to a local bar, the Spaceman was released from the Expos as well, and promised that he wouldn’t play ball again. No team would touch this distraction of a man, especially after his publicized drug use, disrespect for managers, and irresponsibility in the locker room. And as his marriage collapsed as well, Lee sank into a foggy funk that no manner of logic could penetrate. He refused to believe that he wouldn’t pitch in the majors again, traveling across the country with the hope that a team might sign a washed up southpaw. Eventually, Bill would find a kind of a home with a senior league team, where the competition might not be that tough, but where the game was still played in the purest of forms.
My first and largest problem with this film is that it is hardly a film at all. Director Brett Rapkin makes documentaries, often about baseball, and although everyone earns a little leeway on their first try, his amateur attempt at real film is almost laughable. He may have watched a few biopics in preparation, but I guess he didn’t copy them enough, because this film is barely a biography and very nearly not a picture. It’s as if he forgot to add in the elements that make a good movie; heart, believability, depth, entertainment. On the surface, and judging by the trailer, this looks to be a passable film, something typical and mass-produced, but Rapkin fails to follow the trail so many set before his feet so many times.
You see Ernie Hudson and you think there might be a heartwarming story about teammates sprinkled in for good measure; nope. You see Lee’s family and you think we might begin to understand him on a personal level; nope. It was as if, at each turn, the director, who also wrote the film, didn’t understand how to deliver anything but the truth to our screens, when what we wanted was some cinema. Josh Duhamel didn’t do anyone any favors either; he is simply not strong enough to elevate himself above attractive-actor status. He doesn’t have the talent, that’s all there is to it, and no one in the supporting cast could fit that description, leaving him all alone to flounder. The film itself sunk even faster, with absolutely nothing to save it.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (16×9), the video quality of the DVD is absolutely acceptable, but not very exciting. With a fun 80s vibe, the picture is good but not great, fine but with no flare. The costumes and a few of the set pieces are the highlight of the video.
Audio – The disc was done in English 5.1 Surround with an option of 2.0 Stereo. Those are the audio options, with no language choices. The sound quality is as unexciting as the video, with nothing to hold onto but a solid soundtrack.
Extras – The only special feature on the disc is a trailer for the film.
Skip It. Spaceman won’t enter the annals of sports movie history. Actually, it won’t even be remembered past this month, and it doesn’t deserve to. Almost no one saw this film, and I can’t recommend that anyone add their name to that list, as it barely qualifies as a movie and isn’t worth your time. The direction and writing, done by the same man, were so bad that I doubted I was watching what was originally designed to be presented to audiences. Maybe it was over-edited, maybe there never was enough talent to flesh it out, maybe multiple someones dropped the ball, but whatever the reason, this isn’t anything that worked on basically any level. The video was dated nicely I guess, the audio was forgettable, and there weren’t any great extras, so this movie fails on a technical level as well. Stay far away, and don’t be drawn in if you happen to be a big baseball fan; watch Moneyball instead.
☆ – Content
☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ – Extras
☆ – Replay